Shortly before 0230, Paterson Dispatch started receiving numerous calls for a building fire on Mill Street. While en route, the chief reported heavy smoke in the area and dispatch advised that police were reporting a fire with numerous people trapped. On arrival, companies encountered heavy fire conditions on all three floors of the three-story frame with a commercial occupant on the first floor and apartments above. A second alarm was requested as searches for trapped occupants commenced. With conditions rapidly deteriorating, command ordered a third alarm and all members to evacuate the building.

Companies had to overcome several conditions hampering operations: a very narrow street made apparatus placement difficult, heavy fire conditions on arrival, the fire building was attached on both sides and fire was already extending into the Delta exposure. Reports of people trapped and access to the rear of the fire building was difficult. With heavy fire throughout, the original fire building and in exposure D, command requested a fourth alarm which brought mutual aid to the scene. One occupant was rescued by firefighters after climbing out a second-floor window onto an awning and it was reported that police removed as many as 15 people prior to the fire department arriving. No injuries were reported and companies had all visible fire extinguished in approximately 90 minutes, although the fire was not placed under control until a while later. The main fire building was destroyed and three additional buildings sustained damage. Approximately 60 residents were displaced.     

– Fire News photo by Peter Danzo